‘DO you even like beer?” It’s a question that women working in the beer industry are so very tired of being asked. It’s time to call last orders for the tired stereotypes of what beer brewers, sellers, drinkers and experts look like.

Despite thousands of years when brewing was firmly women’s work, in the last few hundred the beer industry has been undeniably male-dominated with beer frequently marketed as a “manly” drink. One woman who is helping change this stale narrative is Amélie Tassin, the founder of Women in Beer (formerly Beers without Beards). Tassin began her beer career in Paris as co-owner of a bottle shop and now alongside Women in Beer, she runs beer specialist marketing company Tipple Marketing based in Edinburgh.

“Women in Beer is a community,” says Tassin, “we are a group for women who like good beer and good company. We meet up in local pubs, attend events and festivals, visit breweries, and learn from women in the brewing industry. We’re here to support women in their beer journey whether it’s their passion, their career, or they’re just looking for a new hobby.”

This month Women in Beer has taken this industry support and advocacy further: launching a beer mentoring programme for women.

“Redressing the gender balance in the beer industry is a question of safety for all of us,” Tassin says, “The more women are seen as legitimate in the beer industry, the less we’ll face problems of sexism and harassment.”

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Despite progress in gender equality, unfortunately sexism in the beer industry is still rife. Tassin says: “People systematically assume I won’t know anything about beer.

“Even though I’ve beem working in the industry for 15 years and I’ve been a judge in several renowned beer competitions. It’s been the case during all my career and it’s still the case. From people who didn’t want to be served by me at the shop to colleagues who were systematically double checking everything I said, and questioning all my decisions while none of my male colleagues were treated like this.”

The first session of the mentoring programme has seen a huge number of applications, clearly showing both the need for support and women’s enthusiasm for careers in beer.

“It’s been both exciting and a bit overwhelming to see so many candidates applying to the programme,” says Tassin. “I think it’s incredibly important for women to be able to learn and take inspiration from other women in the industry. It’s been a real joy to see this project coming to fruition.”

Twelve women have been chosen as the inaugural mentees. They come from across the country and include plenty of brewers, plus micropub owners, beer marketers and managers. Each woman has been paired with an industry mentor who will work with them over a year to develop their careers with a mixture of personal and group meetings, webinars and events.

The National: Brewing has historically been a male dominated industryBrewing has historically been a male dominated industry

The mentors are impressive leaders from across the beer industry. They include Jaega Wise, head brewer at Wild Cards Brewery and presenter of Radio 4’s The Food Programme; Emma Inch, the outgoing chair of the British Guild of Beer Writers, and beer sommelier, teacher and author Natalya Watson.

The mentorship programme has also attracted an impressive level of industry engagement and sponsorship, initial sponsors include Crisp Malt, Simpson Malt, Lallemand Brewing, BarthHaas X and Kegstar.

These companies will also be offering learning opportunities during the programme, many of which will also be open to the wider Women in Beer community.

Alix Blease, technical sales representative at Lallemand Brewing said: “We are very proud to sponsor the Women In Beer Mentorship Programme. Assisting women working in the beer industry to get support and mentorship for their projects and creative endeavours will only lead to expanding their career opportunities in the future. Lallemand will additionally be supporting this venture with web seminars and sensory training.”

A second round of applications will open in March 2024 and further industry support and sponsorship is being sought to develop the programme further and ensure its longer-term financial viability.

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As the mentees and mentors embark on what is sure to be a fruitful collaboration, Tassin is preparing to speak at the next Women in Beer Summit in the USA next month.

She’ll be discussing how to manage diversity within beer events, just one area within her significant industry expertise.

“I think it’s very important to bring everyone together when it’s a matter of diversity, to ensure the industry is welcoming for all,” she says.

Tassin would like people to understand that: “Beer is for everyone and can be made by everyone. There’s women working at every position in the beer industry, not only sales or marketing.

“If you have a look at our mentors and mentees, you’ll see we are everywhere.”